WINNIPEG — Cole Perfetti has made a conscious decision to start shooting more. It’s worked.
Perfetti scored in a fifth consecutive game to help propel the Winnipeg Jets to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
“I put an emphasis a bit more on shooting the puck, especially when the puck seems to be going in the back of the net,” said the 21-year-old forward from Whitby, Ont.
The Jets only had five shots on goal in the second period but scored three times.
Perfetti got the trio of markers going with his sixth goal of the season, which also extended his point streak to eight games (five goals, five assists).
“I feel better this year,” Perfetti said. “Even now from the beginning of the season, 16 games in, I feel like it is getting better each and every game. It’s been good.”
Mason Appleton and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored in front of 11,340 fans at Canada Life Centre – the third-lowest attendance total of the season.
Jets forwards Nino Niederreiter and Vladislav Namestnikov had two assists apiece. Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves for Winnipeg (9-5-2).
Alex Tuch and JJ Peterka scored for the Sabres (7-9-1), who have lost their past three games.
“I think in this league, it’s becoming more offensive, so we’ve got to find ways to score,” Tuch said. “I thought Hellebuyck played really well, but I thought we carried most of the pace, most of the tempo out there. It was good to see.
"I think we did it a little bit late, though. I think we can still start a little bit more on time.”
Goalie Eric Comrie, making his first return to action since suffering a lower-body injury on Oct. 27, stopped 15 shots for Buffalo.
There was no scoring in the first period, despite both teams having a power play.
Kyle Connor, the Jets’ leading scorer, was sent in on a breakaway with under 30 seconds remaining, but couldn’t put his rebound in an open side of the net.
Perfetti scored when he sent the puck to a top corner at 2:12 of the second period. Appleton made it 2-0 at 4:33 when he raced to the net and got a timely pass from Niederreiter, but Tuch responded 24 seconds later.
Ehlers appeared to catch Comrie off guard with a long shot that went past him to make it 3-1 at 8:12.
Jets interim head coach Scott Arniel said the Sabres’ play affected his team’s shot total.
“But at the same time, I thought there were a few times where I thought we should have fired the puck,” Arniel said. “But when you go 11 minutes without a shot in the second period, you've got to simplify things a little bit.
“We did score those goals and they kind of came off transition. But you’ve got to give Buffalo credit, they were real good at stealing pucks, knocking pucks out of the air.”
Peterka made it a one-goal game when he put in his own rebound a minute into the third period. The Sabres had another power play four minutes later, but couldn’t capitalize.
Sabres coach Don Granato said the effort in the third period has to be duplicated to lead to success.
“The third period I will say for me was the culmination of everything to this point of the year and our guys finally decided to wake up and compete harder instead of waiting," he said. "Obviously, I had a message for them unlike a normal message you would get after a period.
"I like the way they responded, but it's not what I say. They know. There's guys in that room, they know they need more."
Despite missing the past three games with an upper-body injury, Tuch quickly returned to form. His goal gave him 10 points in his past eight games, including five goals.
“Guys have to elevate,” Tuch said. “If you’re not going to elevate this early in the season, then why do it all.”
The Jets are 7-0-1 when leading after the second period this season and 7-1-1 when scoring first.
Jets: Finish a five-game homestand Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes.
Sabres: Buffalo continues a three-game road trip with the second game Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2023.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press